Are you depressed that Hell’s Kitchen is over? Can’t get enough of Gordon? Well, you’re in luck. He’s brought his UK hit Kitchen Nightmares across the pond for our enjoyment, and with it a somewhat kinder, gentler version of himself. I said somewhat. In Nightmares, Ramsay takes to the road in search of run-down, nasty restaurants, hoping to whip them into shape in only a week. Can he make a difference in places I wouldn’t let a dog eat from? Only time will tell.
Do They Make Diapers That Big?
Ramsay’s first project is a family-owned Italian restaurant in Babylon, N.Y. called Peter’s Italian Restaurant. Peter is only the manager, however - and I use the term “manager” loosely - the place is owned by his long suffering sister, Tina. It’s obvious from the start that Peter is 99.9% of the problem in this dysfunctional little family eatery. His staff calls him a 250 pound baby, he refuses to make himself useful, and he’s obviously more concerned with his tanning booth appointments, his Mercedes, and his expensive suits than he is with making the restaurant succeed. Peter spends his time strutting about, chatting it up with the few customers that straggle in while his frustrated cooks fight with ovens that don’t work and cheap, crappy ingredients.
Gordon to the rescue! Well, if Peter would ever get there to pick him up, that is. Peter finally rolls up an hour late in his Mercedes (out getting his teeth whitened, I suppose) and takes Gordon to meet the family. Dad Yogi cracks on Gordon’s mussed hairstyle, saying he didn’t know how to take him at first, calling him one of those “crazy foreigners.” Tina seems a bit smitten with Gordon, telling us how charismatic and good-looking he is. Preaching to the choir, girl. Gordon then meets head chef Robert, the rest of the staff, and two of Peter’s musclehead friends, leading Gordon to exclaim “I feel honored. I’ve been introduced to the mob.”
Time to check out what Peter’s is cooking. Ramsay orders crab cakes and lobster ravioli, and immediately rips on the salad underneath the crab cakes. Pieces of it are brown and mushy, and he picks them off to the side, much to head waiter Angelo’s embarrassment. Angelo takes the offending salad back and lays into the chefs. Gordon then picks apart a crab cake and finds that the middle is cold and the crab meat isn’t fresh. The lobster ravioli doesn’t fare any better as he calls it “baby food inside gunk.” Never mind the two pounds of chopped parsley dumped on top of it. Come to find out, the ravioli was bought from a supply chain and not made fresh. Big no-no. Angelo relays the bad news to the kitchen, and all hell breaks loose. Gordon (and the other customers) can hear the arguing from the kitchen, much to his dismay.
Tonight’s Specialty: Camel Turds With a Side Of Mold
Day two, and Gordon goes to check out the food storage areas. He finds moldy veggies, bread that you could use to hammer nails with, and some meatball-looking things that he compares to camel turds. Yum. Also, the fridge isn’t cold enough and it leaks all over the food. Gordon isn’t happy. He pulls Peter, who was late again, into the fridge to show him the nastiness. Peter blames the chefs for not taking care of the area, and Gordon shoots back at him that he’s the manager and should take some responsibility: “Stop acting like a f***ing baby!” Gordon insists that the place be cleaned up, and Peter puts the kitchen staff on it while he saunters off to sip a cappuccino.
Gordon then goes to inspect the dilapidated ovens and cooking equipment, and I wonder how these guys can get anything cooked in that dump. The broiler doesn’t work properly, one oven is a total loss, and the pans look like something out of a landfill. No money has ever been invested since the place opened, says chef Robert. Gordon observes Peter giving away free bottles of wine and drinks to a doctor who “takes care of Peter,” and it’s obvious why this place isn’t making any money. While Gordon gathers them for a meeting in the kitchen, in walks some Goodfellas reject
mobster bookie“bill collector,” wanting to talk to Peter now. Peter ushers the loudmouth out with some choice comments of his own, causing a scene in front of customers. Again.
Gordon sits down with Tina, who is overwhelmed and stressed. She says she wants to either cry or commit bloody murder, and shares that Peter dips into the till when he wants some money to blow. Unacceptable, says Gordon. Tina could lose her house if this restaurant goes under, and nobody seems to give a rip, especially Peter. Peter is in dire need of an ass-kicking, in my opinion.
If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get the Hell Out of the Kitchen
Day three, and it’s time for a wake-up call. Gordon gathers the family around and hands out new assignments: Peter and dad will have a turn in the foul kitchen to see how hard it is, and the chefs are delighted. Tina and mom will manage the floor for a change. Dad Yogi says he’s never seen Peter cook, and it shows as he fumbles around in the kitchen, whining for his mom to bring him an espresso. Yogi’s no better, burning some sort of poor food to death in the pan with a two foot flame. Gordon has packed the dining room, and the new “cooks” can’t handle it. One hour into lunch, and nobody has been served. Gordon goes in to taunt Peter after he whines for some orange juice to drink, but Peter doesn’t take too well to being cussed at. He's used to being the bully. The staff is all grins, pleased that someone finally stood up to the loutish Peter.
Having made his point, Gordon holds another meeting on day four. Time for serious commitment, he says, as he leads them all in to see the shiny new kitchen. Gordon brought in some kitchen specialists to remake the place overnight: they have new, working stoves, shiny new pots and pans, a fridge that works, and dishes without chips. They squeal with delight, and Yogi wipes a tear from his eye. Gordon decides the tired menu needs a makeover, and joins head chef Robert and sous chef John in the new kitchen to come up with a family style menu. The chefs are giddy to work with Gordon. I wish he made housecalls.
Having come up with some new, fresh choices for the menu, the relaunch is about to take place. Gordon gathers the staff around for a pep talk, when in walks yet another *cough* bill collector, looking for Peter. Gordon politely tells the guy to piss off, but he’s not having it. He yells at Gordon, and Peter becomes enraged at his hero being disrespected. Peter rips off his jacket and a fight ensues, complete with more bleeped cuss words than I heard on the entire last season of Hell’s Kitchen. The “bill collector” tucks his tail between his legs and scoots off. Peter continues ‘roid raging inside, holding the meat tenderizer like a weapon. Gordon eventually calms him down.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives. The restaurant is packed for dinner service, with several huge parties ordering the new family style dishes. The cooks are having to adjust to the new tools, and Peter is still being...well, Peter. He stresses over the crowd, pacing around and sipping drinks. He even has the audacity to go into the kitchen and chow down on someone’s appetizers because he was hungry. I’m thinking the person who ordered those clams was hungry, too, but that doesn’t bother ol' Peter. Angelo snarks that maybe he should come back next week for the appetizer that Peter ate, since he can’t get any food out to the tables. Peter proceeds to berate a poor waitress who did nothing wrong that I could see, sending her bawling into the back room. Somehow, over 200 customers were served in spite of all the drama this night.
The Truth Hurts. So Does Looking at Peter's Ugly Watch.
Gordon gathers them afterwards to discuss what happened, and immediately singles Peter out as a waste of space, saying that he probably hasn’t seen a day of work in twenty years. Chef Robert nods in agreement as Ramsay tells Peter that he is the problem. “I think this place would run better without you,” says Gordon. Peter’s eyes start to bug out as the staff looks ready to do a happy dance. Gordon pulls Peter off alone and lectures him, saying that he'd better come back in the morning with a new attitude. Peter is dumbstruck. He says that Gordon told him all the things that the others have always wanted to say to him. “Gordon is right,” he admits.
And....*poof* Peter has a magical change of attitude the next day, calling to get the walk-in cooler fixed and actually helping the others do, like, work. Customers are coming in droves, and the restaurant is finally making money. Peter even hosts a “family day” for the whole town, complete with food and games, and brings in a priest to bless the “new” restaurant. Peter makes amends with everyone and Gordon gives the family props for turning it around, telling them they have a potential goldmine if they can keep it up and lay off the fighting. Peter says he’s going to name his first son after Gordon (Gordon Ramsey Pelligrino? Yikes) as Gordon leaves the family to continue on their own, and I now have a huge craving for manicotti, dammit.
Join us next week as Gordon tries to clean up another foul N.Y. restaurant with more moldy food and roaches than you can shake a can of Raid at. See you then!
Questions, comments, great manicotti recipes? PM me right here!